Communicating Respect

Use 'people first' language, Young advises
 Communicating Respect
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Using appropriate language is something everyone can do to recognize that people are more than their disabilities, according to Judy Young.

"They are people first," said the assistant director of training and development at ILR's Employment and Disability Institute.

Rather than relying on the term "wheelchair bound," for instance, simply say a person uses a wheelchair, she said.

Choosing respectful words when communicating with and about people with disabilities, Young said, is an important step in honoring the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The law, 21 years old today, directly impacts millions of Americans.

Young is also project manager of the National Employer Technical Assistance Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability and Employment Policy.

The center operates the Employer Assistance and Resource Network, a one-stop resource for recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing workers with disabilities. A call center and website ( offer in-person or on-line support.

As employers across the nation look to access the untapped pool of candidates with disabilities, using language which acknowledges them as individuals is a huge first step in making the workplace more welcoming and inclusive, Young said.

For tips on communicating and interacting with people with disabilities, go to and click on disability etiquette.